Trade is a blunt tool that can harm as well as help poverty reduction, the Fairtrade Foundation warns in a new briefing paper published today.
In September 2015, UK Prime Minister David Cameron will take to the global stage at the United Nations, backing new global targets to end global poverty and reduce inequality – the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The five-point agenda for policy coherence sets out how trade can genuinely support the ambition of the SDGs, to which trade is central.
Fairtrade’s experience is that getting trade policy wrong is more than a matter of uncomfortable figures on a graph, but of personal hardship and poverty for hundreds of thousands of men, women and children. It cautions that the needs of poor people are too easily undermined if trade policy is not joined up and national and EU level domestic trade and agriculture agendas continue to undercut the interests of producers in developing countries. It’s a case of giving with one hand and taking with the other.
Shivani Reddy, Policy Manager at the Fairtrade Foundation said: “When trade deals go wrong, there is risk of serious damage to the lives of large numbers of workers and farmers, and the potential to deepen poverty. But when they are designed with sustainable development in mind, they can boost incomes, tackle poverty and deliver a lasting impact.
“A good start would be a commitment to assessing the likely impact of new deals on the poorest, at an early stage of negotiations. Better accountability and transparency of the labyrinthine processes to civil society – especially to the people likely to be directly affected in developing countries – is important. A willingness to deliver robust support for adjustment for farmers and workers affected by trade deals is essential. And it will be when we see ministers putting the poor first, if the national interest conflicts with development priorities that will be the overarching test of success.”
In 2014, Kenya’s flower industry, which supports the livelihoods of 500,000 people, found itself subject to raised taxes on their sales to the EU when negotiations on an Economic Partnership Agreement between the EU and East African countries hit the buffers. They needed to find an estimated £640,000 a month until agreement was finally reached.
Disaster is looming for hundreds of thousands of sugar cane growers in developing countries who have long made a living from selling to the UK and European Union. In 2017 the EU market will be deregulated. Previously a cap on EU sugar production meant a gap between EU production and EU consumption provided a guaranteed market for farmers in developing countries. The price of sugar has already fallen by 30 percent drop in the price paid to producers and famers face an uncertain future.
The Fairtrade Foundation is calling on UK Government to:
- Ensure that the SDGs on trade are ‘pro-poor’, with indicators that drive fair and sustainable trade for poor communities – not just trade for its own sake.
- To make sure that the whole government works better together to reduce poverty through trade, sustainable development must be the top shared priority for the UK’s trade goals.
- To ensure that comprehensive assessments are made of the likely impact of trade decisions on poor communities, the risks of damage to livelihoods and how positive outcomes can be ensured.
- To ensure that farmers and workers affected by changes to trade regimes receive proper support to help them adjust
- To use the UK’s influence to ensure that the EU’s trade decisions are fair for farmers and workers in developing countries.
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Notes to Editors
The Fairtrade Foundation is an independent certification body which licenses the use of the FAIRTRADE Mark on products which meet international Fairtrade standards. This independent consumer label appears on products to show that disadvantaged producers are getting a better deal from trade. Today, more than 1.5 million people – farmers and workers – across more than 74 developing countries benefit from the international Fairtrade system.
Over 5,000 products have been licensed to carry the FAIRTRADE Mark in the UK including coffee, tea, herbal teas, chocolate, cocoa, sugar, bananas, grapes, pineapples, mangoes, avocados, apples, pears, plums, grapefruit, lemons, oranges, satsumas, clementines, mandarins, lychees, dried fruit, juices, smoothies, biscuits, cakes & snacks, honey, jams & preserves, chutney, rice, quinoa, herbs & spices, seeds, nuts, wines, ales, rum, confectionery, muesli, cereal bars, ice-cream, flowers, sports balls, sugar body scrub and cotton products including clothing, homeware, cotton wool, olive oil, gold, silver and platinum.
Awareness of the FAIRTRADE Mark continues to be high in 2014, at a level of 78%. Estimated retail sales of Fairtrade products in 2013 exceeded £1.7 billion, a 12% increase on sales of £1.53 billion in 2012.
 500,000 people dependent on the Kenyan floriculture industry, including 90,000 direct employees – source: Kenya Flower Council http://kenyaflowercouncil.org/?page_id=69